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How does the setting influence the play in Death of a Salesman?

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shunnn | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 22, 2010 at 3:13 AM via web

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How does the setting influence the play in Death of a Salesman?

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 22, 2010 at 3:47 AM (Answer #1)

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The setting as far as time lines shift from past to present and back to the past. The scenes that occur in the present tense are characterized by Willy's flashbacks in time, which influence the play in that it shows the qualities of Willy's character.

- A man stuck in the past,  unable to move forward, still haunted by his mistakes, will lost, going towards insanity, dysfunctional, hopeless.

Those same flashbacks affect Biff similarly in a way, a he also becomes enthralled in his father's long lost world. They also help us see that Biff, in his own way, is not much different from his father in terms of giving up and letting circumstances take over his life.

Hence, Biff has also  a) lost the image of his father as a hero, b) does not trust him, c) still remembers his father's infidelity, and d) he quit a possible football career because of all this. He also has all hope lost, and he is also caught in the past.

What we get from this is that in Death of a Salesman the past is what maintains the present stuck in a rut.

The future does not look as bring as it should, but ironically looks brighter without Willy. The “Requiem,” which takes place after the funeral, exposes the true image of the salesman described under the same light as Willy: Aperson whose streaks of luck, charisma, and personal magnetism are the only weapons that ensure their success. Hence, once Willy, or any other salesman , loses those weapons, their only resort is to dream, like Charley expressed. Yet, as Willy had an uneventful funeral which followed an uneventful and incomplete life, the one bright window into the possible future of the Lomans is when his wife says, poignantly referring to making their last house payment: "We are Free".

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted February 22, 2010 at 3:28 AM (Answer #2)

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The setting in "Death of a Salesman" takes place at Willy Loman’s house and yard which is located in Brooklyn, and various places in New York and Boston.

The play is set in the mid to late 1940s.  It is a time when most women were homemakers and the men were the bread winners.  The American Dream was riding high following World War II.  New technology such as washing machines were in the households and reaching the desires of owning one's own home was a common struggle.

The time and place is important as the setting for the play.  The history of a person leads to his economic stress.  Willy had raised his family during an era when he had actually thought he could attain his dreams.  To see them fall to the wayside was devastating for him.  It was especially hard when he had to go into work and see the younger generations replacing him on the field and out performing him. 

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